Ale vs Lager - Top Fermentation vs Bottom Fermentation

Beer Types: Ales, Lagers, Hybrids and Others

You might think the differences between ales and lagers has to do with color or flavour…but for the most part, you’d be wrong. Find out more…


First things first: there are 3 primary beer types:

  1. Ales
  2. Lagers
  3. Hybrids
We included, “Others” in the headline of this post because there are a bunch of “sort-of beers” like ciders, ginger beers, meads and so on; and while they’re not technically beers, their popularity and overlap with beer means they need a home here!

Okay…but what’s the difference between Ales and Lagers?

In short, Ales and Lagers are simply created by using different yeasts; Here are the grueling details:

Ales
Ales have been brewed for thousands of years, using specific warm-brew Ale yeasts, that float at the top of the brew.
  • Quick brew cycle – as little as 7 days
  • Yeast – Saccharomyces cerevisiae
  • Top fermentation
  • Fermented warm (Usually brewed between 59 – 77 degrees F)
  • Brew method is thousands of years old
  • Strong, assertive, and more robust in taste
  • Served not too cool, usually 50-55 degrees F, 10-14 degrees C, sometimes called “cellar temperature”.
Lagers
Lagers are a newer type of beer and requires lager yeasts strains which are brewed at a cooler temperature; unlike ale yeasts, the lager yeasts remains at the bottom of the brew throughout the fermentation process.
  • Longer brew cycle – up to several months
  • Yeast – Saccharomyces Uvarum
  • Bottom fermentation
  • Fermented cold (Usually brewed between 40 and 55 degrees F)
  • Brew method is relatively new
  • Smoother, crisper, and more subtle in taste and aroma
  • Served cold, usually 40-45 degrees F, 4-7 degrees C.
Summary video:


Hybrids

Hybrid beer are of mixed parentage. These beers have been dubbed hybrids because brewers implement a hybrid method of fermenting those beer; for example they will use lager yeast fermented at ale (warm) temperatures, or they will ferment a beer with ale yeast but at lager (cool) temperatures.